In times of crisis and tragedy, Americans have turned to their president for leadership and words of reassurance. At a memorial service tonight in Tucson, President Obama will try to help the nation make sense of a tragic shooting that took the lives of six innocent victims.
On Monday Obama urged Americans to focus on the stories of bravery that came out of last Saturday's shooting, saying they speak to "the best of America, even in the face of such mindless violence."
"I think it's going to be important, I think, for the country as a whole, as well as the people of Arizona, to feel as if we are speaking directly to our sense of loss," the president said on Monday at the White House, "but also speaking to our hopes for the future and how out of this tragedy we can come together as a stronger nation."
Obama is expected to focus on the victims, heroes and those in Tucson that have been impacted by the tragedy.
Michael Waldman was the chief speechwriter for President Bill Clinton from 1995-1999. He said that when a president gives an address in the wake of a tragedy, it is important to speak to the grieving audience in front of him and the nation as a whole.
"Any president has to balance both comforting the immediate families and speaking to the country's values and how to make changes to make sure the things don't happen again," Waldman said.
Waldman said for a speech like the one the president will give tonight, less is more.
"This is not something where you're aiming to have words chiseled on the wall of the presidential library," he said.
Presidents can use tragedies and crises to bring the nation together, but there is also a risk to being seen as politicizing such events to further a political agenda.
Obama White House officials are well aware of the pitfalls of being seen as using a calamity such as the Tucson shootings to wage a political fight while the nation mourns and victims fight for their lives.
Several former presidential speechwriters – Democrats and Republicans - told ABC News that this speech should not be political and that it is first and foremost a eulogy.
"There's a time and a place for everything. The president, I hope, will say that violent words have no place in our society. The funeral is not necessarily the place to say it," Waldman said.
William McGurn, chief speechwriter for President George W. Bush from 2006-2008, emphatically said the president should not address the ongoing debate about political rhetoric and what role, if any, it had in the Tucson shootings.
"It's not appropriate," he said. "There are some things that make a problem worse."
Historian Douglas Brinkley said there is no need for a finger-pointing moment. "It's a national healing. [Obama's] got to be the healing agent of our nation," he said.
But, Waldman said, some Americans will expect Obama to speak out against violent language and heated political rhetoric. But that should come in a future address.
"There are always tragedies but where progress has come from the tragedies is when we don't just bemoan what's happened but point forward and toning down the language, toning down the violent rhetoric in politics, that's a good place to start," Waldman said.
Tragic events in American history have prompted some of the most memorable presidential addresses, as leaders rose to the challenge of soothing a grieving nation.